Sakhalin Island

Image - Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the Sakhalin Island in the Far East.

Sakhalin Island [Сахалін; Saxalin]. An island off the Pacific coast of the Russian Federation situated between the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk. With an area of 76,400 sq km it constitutes most of Sakhalin oblast (which also incorporates the Kurile Islands). Its terrain is largely mountainous and it is heavily (60 percent) forested. Temperatures range from 12 to 15°C in July and from –10 to –20°C in January. Its annual precipitation is 400–750 mm. In 1855–75 it was jointly held by the Russian Empire and Japan, and then in 1875–1905, by the Russian Empire alone. In 1905 the southern half was ceded to Japan. In 1945 the whole again came under Russian (Soviet) control; the island has been intensively colonized since then. From the mid-19th century it was used by the Russian Empire as a site for exiles and forced labor. In 1926 there were 11,000 inhabitants on the northern end of the island. In 1959 the population of Sakhalin oblast (including the sparsely inhabited Kuriles) was 649,000; it rose to 710,000 by 1989, and fell to 489,638 in 2019. A large proportion (over 40 percent) of its inhabitants live in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. According to the 1989 census Ukrainians made up 6.5 percent (46,000) of the island’s population. Of those, 17,300 (37 percent) claimed Ukrainian as their native tongue. For decades Ukrainians in the Far East (and the Russian Federation in general) have been deprived of access to Ukrainian-language education or publications, and the process of Russification has been rapid. In 2019, the official number of Ukrainians in Sakhalin oblast was 13,000 (2.6 percent of the oblast’s population).

[This article was updated in 2019.]

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